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 Police Chief Robert Shelide speaks during the online June 16 Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting. The Board of Trustees voted 5-2 June 16 to suspend him without pay and have him undergo training after he made inflammatory social media comments.

Police Chief Robert Shelide speaks during the online June 16 Shelby Township Board of Trustees meeting. The Board of Trustees voted 5-2 June 16 to suspend him without pay and have him undergo training after he made inflammatory social media comments.

Photo by Kara Szymanski

Township Board suspends police chief for 30 days after social media investigation

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 22, 2020

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — The Shelby Township Board of Trustees voted 5-2 June 16 to suspend Police Chief Robert Shelide for 30 days following an investigation of his social media posts.

Shelide had a personal Twitter account where he posted inflammatory statements regarding the civil unrest around the country following the death of George Floyd.

The meeting on the police chief incident was held via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 300 people attended the virtual meeting.

The suspension will be for 30 days with no pay, from June 17 through July 17. Shelide will be required to go to cultural and sensitivity training, and he has to undergo the additional law enforcement training within 60 days.

Shelide was placed on paid administrative leave during an investigation into the comments he made on social media about the protests across the country. Some of his comments reportedly involved putting people in body bags.

Two of the board members voted to fire Shelide: trustee Vince Viviano and Supervisor Rick Stathakis.

Many residents were upset by Shelide’s comments, as were people from other communities.

Allyson Grimm, of Southfield, said people should not defend Shelide.

Robert Zambarski, of Shelby Township, addressed the board about the issue at three meetings.

“This board in partnership with (County) Executive Mark Hackel have made great strides to make Shelby Township a destination for both families and businesses alike. Now if these statements were made by Shelide while McLaren or Amazon were searching for a location, would they have chosen our community or would they have chosen another? If you vote to retain Shelide, I am afraid we reap what we sow and the progress we have made in Shelby Township will be down the drain. His comments are just wrong. … He should be someone children look up to,” said Zambarski.

Nicole Carp, of Shelby Township, said Shelide’s comments were inappropriate and it is the township’s responsibility to stop the cycle of police violence.

“He should be fired, not just disciplined. His comments and overall online conduct has been inappropriate and harmful to our community. I’ll point out some of what other people said, that the online comments and criticism are a chronic issue having occurred long before the radicalized part with George Floyd. So these comments were not a lack of judgement. … Additionally, he states that his 30-year record should protect him from punishment in this case. ... It is now your responsibility to end that cycle and do what is best for this community,” said Carp.

Lillian Lucido, of Shelby Township, said that Shelide has always been professional and kind and not racist. Shelide made a big mistake and apologized for it, she said.

“I ask the board, please do not judge those that sin differently from you. None of us can say we have not made an error in judgement. None of us are perfect. While his comments were unbecoming an officer, he made a stupid mistake. He has always been professional, kind and aboveboard. He apologized. He is remorseful, and frankly, I believe him. Please vote to keep the chief. He is a blessing to our community, and he made a mistake. His comments were emotionally driven, and I do not believe the chief is racist. No one I know in this community believes he is racist. We are all worthy of forgiveness. Each and every one of us,” she said.

Daniel Vanlacken, who has worked with Shelide for 18 years, said Shelide did not mean his comments the way people are taking them.

“I’ve worked with Shelide, and I can personally attest to his dedication to being a public servant. He is not a racist, and this whole thing is completely misconstrued. He made the comment about criminals assaulting innocent people, not about the protesters just marching up and down the street. He is a pleasure to work with, a pleasure to work for and you could talk with anyone at the Southfield Police Department, black or white, and he was loved and respected by all the members at his department. I just find this disgusting that people are twisting this to fit their own agenda,” he said.

Shelide spoke during the meeting about his comments.

“I bleed blue. I have been doing this since I was a kid. This isn’t a job for me; this is my calling. It’s in my DNA. I’m here before you humbly and ask you to understand the context in which I made my private comments. I fully recognize the magnitude of the situation. I am not a racist. In my career as a law enforcement officer, I have strived to be fair, just and compassionate toward all people. My comments were driven by my heart and emotion due to the blatant criminal activity I was observing in the aftermath of rioting across our country,” he said.

Trustee John Vermuelen said he researched and personally took an interest in the topic.

“I started checking the court databases to see it from the federal dockets. The man has never been named in any suit. Our Police Department in his tenure has never been named in any federal lawsuit. I checked the Oakland County Circuit Court index. I checked the Macomb County Circuit Court index. I took upon myself the day of the protest June 6 and actually did a ride-along, and I found them (the Police Department) very professional,” Vermuelen said.

Stathakis said there are major reasons why Shelide should not keep his job.

“He created a false account, and that was not honest,” Stathakis said.

He referenced a comment Shelide had made on social media and said that it did not value law and order, diversity, or accountability.

He said there were three reasons Shelide should resign from his position.

“He clearly cannot be trusted. His comments will affect the Shelby Township Police Department at the very top, whether we like it or not. His statements appear to reflect a fearful township attitude if you are not white Americans. It’s troublesome and offensive,” he said.

Stathakis said the reputation of the Police Department will now be affected by those comments.

He said Shelide has let down Shelby Township.

“The relationship between residents and our department is everything,” he said.